Jenny Sanford backs Haley for S.C. governor

First lady Jenny Sanford has endorsed Lexington state Rep. Nikki Haley in her five-way race for the 2010 Republican governor's nomination.

In a letter released to the public, Sanford praised the 37-year-old hospital executive and said Haley was the kind of leader she wanted for S.C. She noted Haley's push for more on-the-record voting, a stance that angered House leadership.

"She still didn't back down," Sanford wrote. "And she got results - we now have an unprecedented number of votes on the record.

"She's principled, conservative, tough and smart."

Haley has been a legislative ally of Gov. Mark Sanford, and many assumed Haley would win his endorsement. But Haley has spent the weeks since Sanford's five-day June disappearance and later admission of an extramarital affair keeping her distance from the governor — including removing his photo from her campaign Web site.

The first lady's endorsement once again ties Haley's political future to a Sanford.

"Some folks are questioning if (Haley's) a credible candidate," said Danielle Vinson, a political scientist at Furman University, "but Jenny Sanford carries some weight.

"It sends a signal (to Sanford supporters) that you might not be wasting your vote."

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